The craft of … Billy Wilder

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Double Indemnity. Sunset Boulevard. Ace in the Hole. Stalag 17. Sabrina. The Seven Year Itch. Witness for the Prosecution. Some Like It Hot. The Apartment. The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes. How many film-makers made five this good, let alone ten? There’s nothing you can say about Wilder that he didn’t say better; so here, straight from the master, are his tips for writers.
  1. The audience is fickle.
  2. Grab ’em by the throat and never let ’em go.
  3. Develop a clean line of action for your leading character.
  4. Know where you’re going.
  5. The more subtle and elegant  you are in hiding your plot points, the better you are as a writer.
  6. If you have a problem with the third act, the real problem is the first act.
  7. A tip from Lubitsch. Let the audience add up two plus two. They’ll love you forever.
  8. In doing voice-overs, be careful not to describe what the audience already sees.  Add to what they are seeing.
  9. The event that occurs at the second-act curtain triggers the end of the movie.
  10. The third act must build, build, build in tempo and action until the last event, and then-
  11. -that’s it. Don’t hang around.
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